Most of my life, I called myself a christian, but I was really just going through the motions until I was in high school and I became devout. I read the bible every single day, I prayed several times a day,and I was in church 3-4 times a week. When my pastor told me jesus needed to be my number one priority in life, I took it to heart. At that time, I had no idea just how brainwashed I was. I was somewhat sheltered and no one had ever challenged my beliefs, so I never doubted my religion. I had a few questions, but I figured if god wanted me to know he'd tell me, so I never really questioned it, nor was I encouraged to. I was a good little christian girl.
Fast-forward a few years to college. I was still very devout and went to church regularly, but things seemed to be unraveling rather quickly. I was in the real world, facing real problems (bills, discrimination, full-time student with two part-time jobs, family issues etc.) and praying to an imaginary deity for help that never came. You can imagine the stress I was under. I wondered where god was for the first time in my life. My faith waivered a little each day. And when the pressure of life began to mount, I cracked. I remember crying on the floor praising, praying, practically begging for god to simply give me peace, and it never came. It was at that point that I thought, perhaps my "almighty god" isn't so mighty after all...
I was extremely upset with god, but not quite ready to give up on everything I had believed in for 19 years. Soon after, I met the circle of friends I have now (a majority of which are homosexual). My religion taught me, that they were abominations, perverted in all their ways, but that is not what I saw. In fact, they were the most compassionate, caring, non-judgmental people I had ever met in my life, and I just didn't understand how god could see them in such a negative manner. In my ignorance, I began to pray for them. That they would find god, that they would give up their "gayness" and become christians, because I was convinced that my friends were going to hell. This broke my heart, but even as I prayed these things I began to question it. This is who they are. Why did they need to change? I was the miserable one here, not them. And I had god in my life. And somewhere along the line, it occurred to me: How can god call himself love, but reject their love which was so obviously was genuine? And then go as far as condemning them to hell forever? From that point on, I doubted god's benevolence.
Not long after I had met these friends, I found out one of them was an ex-lutheran turned atheist. This came as a huge shock to me, because I had never heard of anyone deconverting. The idea never even occurred to me. It was sacrilege! It was ludicrous! YetI couldn't help asking him about it. He was the first person to ever tell me that god didn't exist. He was the first to open my eyes to the idea that religion is just a tool to control the masses. After that, things just fell into place. I started doing my own research. I read books by famous atheists such as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. I went to forums for ex-christians. I listened to atheist podcasts. I read the bible for the first time, without the blinders. It was enlightening, but also extremely frightening. I was terrified I was going to hell for doubting god. I was scared of what my family and church would think if they found out I was seriously considering leaving my faith behind. Fear is a powerful thing, but thankfully, so is knowledge. With it, I was able to make a clear decision. Eventually though, the fear wore off a bit and I stopped going to church. It took several months, but I am now a full fledge atheist. I don't know everything (who does?) but I know enough to understand that there probably is no god. Religion is man-made, and so was the fear it instilled in me.
So that is the story of how I freed myself from religion (with the help of a few resources and a really supportive friend). I am still semi-closeted because no one in my family knows about this, except my mother, and she thinks I am only having a minor crisis of faith, not chucking it altogether. Truthfully, I am afraid to come out to my family, because they are all deeply religious and will ask me all kinds of questions that I'm not sure I will be prepared to answer. So I am constantly researching and expanding my knowledge on...well everything. One day soon, I plan to tell them. I just want to be sure I am prepared when I do. Like my path through deconversion, the more I learn, the less fearful I become.
For anyone considering deconverting or currently in the process of doing so, I understand how difficult it can be. It is not an easy process, and it should be done at your own pace. There is an amazing community of atheists out there who have gone through the exact same thing and are wonderfully supportive. Please don't think for a second that you are alone. I will post links to the resources that greatly helped me through my own journey below, in hopes that it may help you too.
Peace & Love,
http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/ (also has the Quran and Book of Mormon)
My Atheist Reading List:
The God Delusion by: Richard Dawkins
God Is Not Great by: Christopher Hitchens
Infidel by: Ayaan Hirsi Ali